Sailing Into 2023: The Finn Gold Cup Arrives in Miami

Sara Paredes, Feature Editor

From Jan. 24-31, the Coconut Grove Sailing Club and the Miami Finn Fleet, in collaboration with the International Finn Association, will host the 67 annual Finn Gold Cup, the pinnacle competition in Finn Class sailboat racing for the first time ever in Miami. The event determines the Finn World Championships, featuring 70 Finn sailors from 16 nations.

“[The process] began more than a year ago when we submitted a 15 or 20-page bid to the International Finn Association, proposing that we be in this event. It is the first time since 2012 that the event has been in America, and the first time in 40 years that it has been on the East Coast,” Regatta Chair of the CGSC Andrea Hoffman said.

The Finn sailboat is a 14-foot, one-man dinghy. At this year’s Finn Gold Cup, sailors from Spain, France, Italy, Hungary, the Netherlands, Brazil, Venezuela, the United States, England and more will compete for the highest honor in single-handed racing.  

“The Finn is a very small sailboat. It is a 14-foot sailboat, but it is an extremely intense technical boat. You have to be very in tune with your craft, so the boat was designed in the 50s for the Olympics, and it has been in the Olympics until 2016,” Commodore of the CGSC Dave Martin said. “We sail in what is called a one design. These boats are all very, very similar. So it is a true test of the sailor, that is how it is supposed to be.”

Throughout the last year, the CGSC has followed the preparatory steps and rules set by past Cup hosts to ensure the smooth production of this year’s Finn Gold Cup. 

“In order to be accepted, we had to meet a bunch of criteria from the International Finn Association. They actually produce a manual on ‘you have got to have so many people’ and ‘you are gonna have this many boats’ and ‘you have to have this many international judges and you cannot have a bunch of people just from your country judging, you have to have people from all over the world come;’ so we have Polish judges, we have measurers from the U.K., we have measurers from Canada and we have people from 16 different countries represented here. There were nine containers that got shipped across the Atlantic, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain and the Netherlands,” Martin said. 

For youth members of the CGSC, hosting the cup means that throughout the week, practices are canceled and the club’s attention will transition toward ensuring the production of a world-class sailing competition. 

“[The Finn Gold Cup] is the best Finn sailors from around the world, and a Finn sailboat is a kind of boat with one sail, and they are shutting down our club and we will not have practice while it is happening, they are using the parking lot, it is filled to the brim with boats,” Miami Palmetto Senior High School freshman and sailor at the CGSC Jordan Glassman said. 

On the administrative side, running a Regatta of this size requires full commitment and involvement of all members.

“For example, to run a regatta of this caliber at the club, we do not shut down our club to run most of our events other than to this caliber and this breadth. We have asked the other programs and they have happily [and] graciously supported us. We have probably about 180-185 kids in the competitive sailing programs here. They are taking the full week off to stay off the property to give us enough room to run this Regatta. We run adult instruction programs out of this club for four to six weekend days of every month, so we’re one of the few venues in Miami where you can still learn how to sail, even if you do not belong to our club,” Hoffman said. 

Being no strangers to hosting high-caliber sailing competitions, the CGSC houses various youth and adult sailing events throughout the year. 

“However, we do these kinds of international events quite often. In fact, in February — there is another boat called a Snipe — which is a small two-person boat. And next month we are hosting the Worlds for the youth for the Snipe. So, many people from all over the world are going to come, [youth],” Martin said. 

For some of the competitors, traveling from around the world to compete in a foreign country requires adapting to the warm waters and climate. As a high-intensity competition, stirring emotions and nerves is a common obstacle. The youngest competitor, 17-year-old Polish sailor Jakub Micewski looks forward to his first World Championship in the United States. 

“I am very excited because it is new for me and it is something cool. It is my first time in the U.S.A. It is my second time at the competition, last year I was in Malta and Italy. That was my first Gold Cup World Championships… I am 17, I have been sailing from 11 years [old],” Micewski said. “[Being in Miami] is very different because it is warmer, because in Poland now it is minus two degrees in Celsius and here I can go in shorts and shirt, it is very good.”

With the opening ceremony scheduled to take place on Thursday, Jan. 26, the CGSC team has coordinated for the Mayor of Coconut Grove, Francis Suarez to open the event, as well as incorporate the participation of youth members in the processional.

“We are having an opening ceremony on Thursday at 6:30, the Mayor is opening the event. We are incorporating our kids and processing flags for the countries and anthems and so on and so forth. And all of our members have been invited and could attend standing with a big deck over top of the lawn and to watch and see and get to meet [the sailors],” Hoffman said. 

For the CGSC, hosting the Finn Gold Cup aids in amplifying the presence of sailing among the Miami community, and is a significant honor to the club and their team. 

“What you have here is the functional equivalent of Tiger Woods playing golf on your home golf course. There are multiple Olympians out on that lawn right now below me. We are hoping that these are the kinds of events that continue to do what our club motto is, which is ‘butts on boats in the Bay,’ and introducing people to what you do with sailing if you want to take it to the next level, and these are the kinds of people who have done that,” Hoffman said.